VCs debate the merits of setting up varsities for innovation.
The Human Resource Development Ministry's proposal to establish a new brand of university – Universities for Innovation (UIs) – has not got a good response from a large number of academicians in Karnataka.
Many academicians, including former and present Vice-Chancellors of universities in the State, are of the view that the aim of the Government should be to ensure that every university becomes innovative by reforming the administrative and teaching process. However, some experts support the creation of UIs.
“Looking at the draft of the proposal, it is obvious that the Government has understood why the existing universities have failed to innovate. Why can't the Government take corrective measures to ensure that all universities engage in innovation through quality research,” asks J.S. Patil, Vice-Chancellor, Karnataka State Law University.
He feels that there will be no end if the Government goes on creating new sets of institutions on the excuse that existing ones have failed.
“Now the Government wants to give complete autonomy to the proposed UIs in their administration – be it appointment or resource generation. If all the plans, spelled out in the draft of the Universities for Innovations Bill, 2010, are extended to the existing universities, every one of them can become an excellent place for innovations,” points out Prof. Patil, adding that the need of the hour is to cure the disease and not to push to the backseat the already ignored universities.
Shortage of funds, says Prabhu Dev
Bangalore University Vice-Chancellor Prabhu Dev too feels that many universities have brilliant faculty and student groups and are capable of taking up quality research activities, but lack funds.
For example, Dr. Prabhu Dev points out, Bangalore University is in the process of setting up a Central Instrumentation Facility at a cost of Rs.30 crore but is not able to implement the job swiftly as it could allocate only Rs. 10 crore this year.
Adequate and quality research facilities can be provided to the faculty and students only when there is enough funding, he says, adding that even though the universities will have to adopt a industry-friendly syllabus, all they have to do is engage in result-oriented research.
Recognition needed, feels Savadatti
M.I. Savadatti, former Vice-Chairman of Karnataka State Council for Higher Education and former Vice-Chancellor of Mangalore University, says proper recognition to the existing universities is the need of the hour.
“We need innovations but do we need separate universities for that purpose as the country already has a large number of institutions of national importance,” he asks, adding that “we have to be realistic.”
Reform the system: N.R. Shetty
“Every university must be engage in innovations. It is true that there has to be a good number of quality researches in the knowledge society but do we require separate universities? Reforming the higher education system across the country is the answer to the insufficient research activities in the existing universities,” says N.R. Shetty, former Chairman of the All India Council of Technical Education's South-Western Regional Committee and former Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University.
Prof. Shetty points out that when undergraduate students of an engineering college can build a satellite it is certain that universities will have sufficient talent for innovation.
A necessity: Thimmappa
However, former Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University M.S. Thimmappa says that UIs are needed when the existing universities have failed to deliver.
“Adopting innovative laws and new ways of recruitment are among the needs of universities but it has become difficult to reform the present system in the universities due to hard-set attitudes. In such cases, beginning universities for innovation is an alternative as it will act as a model for the existing universities and force them to change,” he points out.
Prof. Thimappa, who was also a member of the committee of the Karnataka Knowledge Commission that suggested measures to reform and rejuvenate Mysore and Karnatak Universities, says that the committee's report suggested ways and a roadmap for making these two universities as model universities so that other universities can follow them. “The concept of UI is similar to that.”
A former Vice-Chancellor of Mysore University says that many in the Government, including political representatives, are not in favour of reforming the system in the existing universities.
The reason: they fear that they will lose control over recruitment and other processes.
“Setting up of Universities for Innovations will either ensure that the system in the existing universities is not reformed or the process is delayed,” he points out.